Decoding the molecular identity of neurons


  • Prof Gero Miesenboeck

    University of Oxford

  • Prof Scott Waddell

    University of Oxford

  • Prof Stephen Goodwin

    University of Oxford

  • Dr David Sims

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Brains are built from many different types of nerve cell or neuron, but it is unknown how many types of neuron there are and what distinguishes one from another. 

We will complete a census of cell types that make up the brain of the fruit fly. What makes neurons different from each other – and other, non-neuronal cells – is that different genes are turned on or off. We will determine which genes are switched on in all 100,000 neurons of the fly’s brain. This will tell us how many unique genetic signatures there are and, therefore, how many unique cell types.

Knowing which genes are active in which cells will provide important clues to the function of these gene products and the cells that contain them. It will also open new experimental avenues for understanding the brain.